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Arsenal v Southampton; Premier League Match Preview
Happy New Year everyone. I hope you have all suitably recovered. Better still I hope our Arsenal have suitably recovered from their win on Saturday to have energy to play this game.
One of my key concerns with this Arsenal squad is energy level game to game. With the trip to Southampton coming so close to their game against Newcastle, it worries me that we may see at the very minimum a first-45 of prodding, slow football. That presents a problem in that if Arsenal haven’t scored by half-time and sit at a draw then it will likely give the home side hope that they can come out and nick something.
Southampton won’t resemble the side that Arsenal shredded 6-1 back in September. They’ve learned from their mistakes and play in a more disciplined fashion. While they still possess issues, I don’t think they will likely be torn apart as they were so easily last time.
Arsenal are putting on a good run of form at the right time. With the change in the calendar comes the real work. The race for the top-4 begins in earnest with this match. They possess a game in hand and still within a sniff of 3rd and if proper improvements are made I would even say that second is possible (I don’t see City doing any real business in January). First seems like a pipe dream and while I always hold out hope I’m not foolish enough to expect that big a collapse from United – unless he who shall not be named gets injured.
An Arsenal win would be their fifth on the trot. Something they haven’t done since they won 8 in a row from 29 Jan to 31 March last season. Then they had the proliofic leg of that certain Dutchman. But the reality is Arsenal aren’t missing his goals as much as you’d think. At the turn of the calendar year last season Arsenal had 36 goals through 31 December. As we move into 2013 Arsenal have scored 34 goals, have conceded less and own a greater goal differential. Sure, you can only imagine where Arsenal’s fortunes would be had they retained – him. But they haven’t and surprisingly they aren’t hurt nearly as much as you’d think.
Of course the fact remains, they need to do the business. The league is the picture of mediocrity and parity. Arsenal will achieve their minimal goal of Champion’s League qualification if they can maintain a level of consistency. The other’s will struggle to do so as well. But hey it’s a new year and with it comes new hope.
Players to watch:
Arsenal: Theo Walcott & Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Players who were both products of the Southampton youth academy. Both have been part of Arsenal’s resurgency and will look to impress on their return to St. Mary’s.
Southampton: Rickie Lambert. The 30 year old forward has taken to the Premier League and has already scored 8 goals for his team. He has proved to be troublesome with his strength and style of play. Arsenal Center-Backs will need to be on guard.
How the match should play out:
I don’t think you can expect this game to be similar to the 6-1 romp at the Emirates. Southampton showed a little of their premier league naievte in that match and there were too many 1 v1 situations that Ox and Podolski could take advantage of. As SOTON has matured into the Premier LEague season they;’ve improved defensively. Still they have their issues and should Arsenal come out with the front three they;ve been running out lately, then the speed the Gunners possess will likely cause the home side problems. Arsenal possess one of the best away records in the league. While their home form is slowly improving the away form has been solidly consistent. Arsenal will still try to create space with their speed and stretch out the gap between the midfield and back four. If Arsenal can do that they should experience success. The key will be to try and possess energy we knwo they haven’t been able to call upon when their are fixtures on top of fixtures.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Diaby (thigh), Fabianski (back), Santos (stomach muscle)
Southampton: Lallana (knee) Clyne (test – knee)
Arsenal: Walcott 8
Southampton: Lambert 88
Arsenal: Podolski 6, Walcott 6
Last Meeting (EPL):
Arsenal (away): 1.4
Southampton (home): 1.4
Arsenal (away): 0.8
Southampton: (away): 1.2
Referee: Lee Probert Matches 12, R1 Y36
US: ESPNDeportes/ESPN3 12:30 PM EST
UK: SkySports 1 17.30 GMT